Report on IAML Congress 2024, Stellenbosch

Several IAML (UK & Irl) Branch members were fortunate to attend the 2024 Congress of our international organisation – “big IAML” – at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, earlier this month. Taking place in a different country each year, Congress is an exciting opportunity to hear papers from international colleagues and experts in related fields, share ideas relevant to music libraries and archives, and soak in some local culture with, of course, live music and local outings.

A view of Stellenbosch University Konservatorium, where IAML Congress 2024 took place

Being the first ever Congress hosted in Africa, issues pertinent to non-Western musical cultures and Africa specifically were given top billing. Peter Linnitt, President-Elect of IAML (UK & Irl), has shared that he found discussions about the preservation and safeguarding of aural and other non-notated musical cultures, such as Nkwenkwezi Languza’s “Advancing the Preservation of South African Memory”, to be a particular highlight. “It was good to be challenged to consider ways of recording music of the past beyond the traditional conception of the printed or manuscript score,” he said, “and to consider how these approaches from other musical cultures can inform our practice here in the UK.”

Continuing the theme of broadening our perspectives beyond just sheet music, former IAML (UK & Irl) President Katharine Hogg (The Foundling Museum) gave a paper entitled “More than just the notes”; and Christopher Scobie’s (British Library) paper “A question of priorities” traced how library collections have expanded in recent years to include musicians’ personal archives, and offered some solutions to the challenges this raises. Concert programmes, too, were high on the agenda, with discussions continuing about the best ways to catalogue, preserve and make accessible such ephemeral items. Peter Linnitt shared that he was particularly inspired by crowd-sourced approaches to transcription.

Stellenbosch’s Moederkerk, venue for several concerts over the course of the week

IAML Congress is a fantastic place to share ideas and gain perspectives to implement in our own libraries and archives. But what will attendees remember most about their trip, I asked. The answer? The excellence of South African wine!

Congress 2025 will take place in Salzburg, Austria.

Photographs courtesy of Peter Linnitt.

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